Will Zika virus sting Pacific Islands tourism badly?
ANZ's Pacific Insight provides an update on the Zika Virus and it's short and long term effects on Pacific Tourism and Fiji
— By Eugin Lee and Glenn Maguire, ANZ Research
Mosquito borne diseases are a common occurrence in the Pacific Islands economies. Between 2012 and 2014, the region documented 28 new outbreaks of dengue fever, chikungunya, and the Zika virus, with active cross transmissions among neighbouring islands. Unprecedentedly, the Zika virus has grabbed headlines due to recent evidence showing that it causes foetal abnormalities in pregnant women. This has raised concerns in the Pacific Islands as the region is a key destination for many newlyweds and honeymooners.
Generally, mosquito outbreaks in the Pacific region tend to follow the seasonal rains, peaking in February and receding closer to May. Thus, the travel and tourism industry has largely been shielded from severe repercussions of high mosquito infestations as the peak season for tourist arrivals coincides with the drier months. In fact, given the regularity of mosquito infestations, the region’s tourism industry has become well seasoned in risk and crisis management of the issues surrounding disease outbreaks. At the present moment, official statistics show that tourist arrivals are maintaining their overall upward trend, suggesting that recent infections are not a key deterrence to many visitors.
In the short term, negative press coverage of the Zika virus and lingering effects of damage from the last cyclone will likely dampen the tourism industry. However, our study shows that this is a transitory phase and tourism should remain resilient over the longer term. Visitor arrivals will likely pick up towards the seasonal peak season, although a full recovery could be delayed till the next annual tourism cycle.
Image: The Spread of the Zika Virus - Countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission and reported cases as at February, 2016 (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
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